When you know a friend or loved one is going through an especially hard time, like grieving the passing of someone they’re close to or dealing with their own illness, it’s only natural to want to reach out and offer your support.
However, sometimes even well-intentioned actions may end up more burdensome than helpful. Here’s a list of suggestions on what to do and what not to do, according to someone who’s gone through a crisis themselves.
Do: Think twice before you call
If you want to support a friend, calling may be more tempting than sending a text because texts can be impersonal, and you want to drive home the point that you are really there for them. However, when someone is in crisis chances are a lot of other people who care about them have the same idea. The feeling of having to answer or return frequent calls is exhausting and might have the exact opposite of your desired effect. Of course, there are certain situations when calling is appropriate, but just be sure it’s necessary before you dial.
Don’t: Text for updates
Think about formatting the texts you send in a way that doesn’t require an answer. If the text ends in a question mark (how are you? What’s the progress?), then it puts pressure on the person to respond.
Do: Send a text of support
Texts that share thoughts of support, offer helpful links to interesting articles, or simply something that will make the recipient smile are less intrusive and let them know that you care without requiring any reciprocation. You can make sure of this by ending the text with something along the lines of “I was just thinking of you. No need to reply.”
Don’t: Ask people what they need
“What can I do to help?” Is one of those texts that people in crisis often get from well-intentioned loved ones. However, when in the midst of a trying situation, it can be hard to get any thoughts to figure out what they might actually need.
Do: Make a specific offer to help
Instead of asking what you can do, try offering up specific things you are prepared to help with. For instance, offer to take their kids to and from school, walk their dog, pick up prescriptions, or write thank-you notes. It’s also worth keeping in mind that while many people might drop off food when the bad news breaks, after a while, this often slows down. Offering to cook or drop off meals in the later weeks is often more helpful.
Do: Use the mail
There’s a certain joy in receiving a card, flowers, or care packages in the mail that could help brighten a grieving person’s day specially. Plus, surprise deliveries after the initial outpouring of support fades away will be even more meaningful to anyone who is struggling.